A Letter to my 29th Year

It’s my birthday. I’m 29 today. I have a strange reaction to that number, 29. Around classmates who are 22, 23, 24, I joke about being old, and I know I’m not, but I also know I’m not really young anymore.

I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years wondering when I will become a grownup. When will I stop feeling like I have no goddamn clue how to get through the basics of life? When will everything stop feeling like such a challenge? When will I get to be like everyone else who has it all together?

Never. And at the same time, right now.

I’m thankful for my 29th year. I’ve spent more time alone this year than ever before, or at least, less time relying on particular individuals to support me, to know me, to define me. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to appreciate silence, learning to appreciate what is me in that silence, finding acceptance.

I could spend some more time regretting that it took me this long to decide it was time to define myself, or really to stop working to define and just discover. I could beat myself up for the bourgeois privilege that is the quarter-life crisis and mock myself for maybe, hopefully, finally getting past it. Or I could just continue to be grateful.

I still don’t do my dishes, but 29 is too old to pretend that will change, and I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful I can stop pretending this is just a matter of growing up and pulling myself together, that when I’m older and more mature I will care about such things and magically find the ability and energy to do them all. Energy is not the problem. Maturity is not the problem. I don’t wear matching socks, either. I’ve kind of started to feel sympathetic for people who struggle with that, but I won’t admit that often.

I’m doing my second Master’s degree, when, if the past five years had gone according to plan, I’d be finishing my PhD by now. Before this year, I was pretty angry about the plan. Sometimes about the failure of the plan, sometimes about the existence of the plan itself. 29 is too old not to just come to terms with the plan being what it is.

My divorce became final this year. It should go without saying that divorce wasn’t in the plan. But with the legalities final, the slate is clean and I’m starting over, again. Maybe it’s just become clear this year that all I’m ever doing is starting over, and I’ve come to appreciate that.

There’s a fine line between introspection and ego-stroking, and I’ve often crossed far over onto the wrong side of it. I was admitting to friends earlier that while I want to pretend I don’t like presents and birthday wishes and a few moments as the centre of attention, false modesty and humility are two entirely different concepts.

I’ve been learning to drive during my 29th year.

I’ve realized that I can leave town and spend a few days by myself without starting to feel stir-crazy, lonely or bored with my own company.

My lack of sleep is because I have too much I want to do, not because of fear, anxiety and unspoken dread. Having too much I want to do is mainly a joy, not a burden and not because I’m running away from what happens in silence.

Much as I’ve spent a lot of time alone, I’ve had love, community, family and friendship come to me from unexpected places exactly when they were needed.

It’s been a very good year, my 29th. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but I’m mostly grateful for those, too – I get bored quickly, and I don’t like being stuck, stagnant, immobile. I’ve had some anxieties and stresses in the past few months, as school and work and schedules and pressures build up and get to me, but here and now, there’s peace. I can start with that, again. If you’ll all forgive my self-indulgence. 😉

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5 thoughts on “A Letter to my 29th Year

  1. Jay says:

    I go through this same shit every birthday now, and have since I turned 27. And I pretty much reach the same conclusion every year.

    It freaks me out a little that I just celebrated my 8th wedding anniversary, have 3 kids (including one who’s in first grade), and I STILL don’t feel like a “grown-up”.

    C.S. Lewis had something interesting to say on growing up, though…he said part of adulthood is getting over the obsession with wanting to be an adult. Being an adult means putting away childish things…and worrying about how “grown-up” you are is, to some extent, childish. I still need to work on that, myself. 🙂

    And finally…and happy birthday. Many happy returns, and hope that you had some delicious, delicious cake. 🙂

  2. Rev. Bob says:

    I’m late again, and I’m so sorry it’s taking so long to get relit.

    Happy being 29 today. It’s not all that bad. I was so driven then, and thank God I’m not younger, when I thought I was indestructable.

    Now I’m pretty sure I am destructable, and that’s kinda good too.

    I wish you, not the joy of each step on the road, the joy that just happens. Kinda like grace, but the grace that comes without thinking about it.

    Happy being 29.

  3. Rev. Bob says:

    Oopsie – forget the not. I wish you the joy of each step on the road.

  4. hysperia says:

    Oh I’m way late on stopping by to find out I missed your birthday. i love this post, introspective and insightful – not self-absorbed. I will be 57 in six months and the odd thing is, I can identify with so much of what you say. I wonder what that means?

    Belated, but very sincere, birthday wishes to you. Many more. I, for one, am glad you were born.

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